My Crying Breakdown
One of the major reasons I experienced a stress and anxiety overload in December of 2019 is that I was trying to avoid processing and feeling the sorrow I was going through. After a series of stressful events and my two oldest children leaving the nest and the country for 2 years, my stress reserve tank was empty. I developed painful inflammation and pressure in my digestive track. The most accurate diagnosis was that I was a workaholic who wasn’t processing emotions. I was working harder, faster and stronger to try and avoid them. Essentially I was holding back the tears to avoid crying. It was causing my body to work against itself and it manifested the sorrow in other ways.
Once I finally accepted and allowed the sorrow, pain, joy, stress and fear to run their emotional course the tears began to flow…and flow. What I had feared and anticipated would be such a painful experience was actually incredibly healing. It was as if I was finally ‘throwing up’ all the toxins that had been building and building inside of me.
I also learned the connection between eating an anti-inflammatory and easily digestible diet and my emotional stability.
Science Says Crying is Good For You
According to an article on MedicalNewsToday.com, Research has found that in addition to being self-soothing, shedding emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins. These chemicals make people feel good and may also ease both physical and emotional pain. In this way, crying can help reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being. That’s awesome! There’s actually science to back up why I feel better after a good cry!
Shedding emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins.
When are Tears a Problem?
According to an article from Harvard Medical School, there are times when crying can be a sign of a problem. Especially if crying happens very frequently and/or for no apparent reason, or when crying starts to affect daily activities or becomes uncontrollable. Conversely, people suffering from certain kinds of clinical depression may actually not be able to cry, even when they feel like it. In any of these situations, it would be best to see a medical professional who can help diagnose the problem and suggest appropriate treatment.
If Crying is So Good for You, Why do We Sometimes Try So Hard to Avoid it?
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is one of our family’s favorite movies. There’s a scene where the group of heroes see the animals for the first time and the lead girl comments, “It’s so beautiful!”. The tough guy policeman then says “it’s enough to make a grown man cry” as a large tear starts to swell in his eye. Then he quickly puts on his tough guy expression and says,”But not this man! Get back in there tear!” And his cheek suctions his tear back inside his eyelid. This scene always cracks us up and we love to quote it when we’re wanting to lighten the mood of a situation. But it also illustrates a great point we can all relate to. Sometimes we think crying is a sign of weakness.
Also, according to the article from Harvard Medical School, crying is an important safety valve. Because keeping difficult feelings inside—what psychologists call repressive coping—can be bad for our health.
Studies have linked repressive coping with a less resilient immune system, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. As well as with mental health conditions, including stress, anxiety, and depression. Crying has also been shown to increase attachment behavior, encouraging closeness, empathy, and support from friends and family.
But I Don’t Want to Ugly Cry!
There’s also the fear of being seen with our face red and splotchy after a good cry. The actresses always look so elegant in the movies when they cry, but I know I look more like a hot mess when I let the tears flow. I’m glad as a society we’ve been able to poke fun at ourselves for how we really look and not take our cry faces so seriously…haha!
My Favorite Crying Places
For some reason the shower is one of my favorite places to cry. Maybe it’s because water is already flowing and I’m feeling warm and tingly all over. And my mind is typically clear and contemplating my day. And the sound of the water drowns out the sound of me crying so I don’t alarm anyone else within ear shot that I’m in danger or have something seriously wrong. Nothings wrong, I’m just having a good cry. And my tears symbolically run down the drain with the rinse water.
My Yoga Mat is My Safe Place
Another one of my favorite places to cry is my yoga mat because I consider it my safe place. When I’m on my yoga mat I am able to push reality aside and just be in the moment. I try to slow down my breathing and clear my mind and do some basic stretches. Invariably this relaxation can cause tears to flow if I have any pent-up emotions that need to be processed. I try to relax into them and just allow them to flow and process.
I relax into the tears and just allow them to flow.
According to an online article by Amy Weintraub, “When some people who have been shallow breathers for most of their lives begin to breathe deeply, emotion can arise unexpectedly. If tears come “for no reason” and unexpectedly, there is no reason to be afraid or feel shame, even if you’re in the middle of a yoga class. “Crying is one of the highest spiritual practices,” said Swami Kripalu. “One who knows crying, knows yoga.” When we cry on the yoga mat, there is rarely a story attached. Think of it as a release. That’s how the biochemistry of your brain sees it.”
One of my favorite positions is child’s pose when I am on my knees with my forehead down against the mat. This give me a really good back stretch. And emotionally I feel like I am submitting to the emotions and humbly allowing them to pass through me.
I always feel better once I’ve exhausted the tears and I am able to take a few cleansing breaths. Then I slowly rise back to my feet. I bought a blue yoga mat because blue represents peace and calm for me.
The Power of Crying With Others
My sweet husband learned early on in our marriage that sometimes I just have to cry. He would pull me in for a soft embrace and allow me to cry and mumble whatever thoughts or feelings were surfacing with the tears. I’m sure it worried him at first but then he discovered through repeated practice that the tears were short-lived and I would feel much better afterwards. I try to remember not to cry on his light colored shirt if I’m wearing mascara 🙂
I can relate to this advice given in these four steps by Maura Banar in an online article, for husbands when their wives need to cry. But these can apply to any relationship…
Step 1: Allow your wife to cry.
While you may feel uncomfortable when your wife is upset to the point of crying, it’s important for her to process her feelings. Perhaps the ideal reaction in this case is to simply embrace your wife and allow her to cry. Words don’t necessarily need to be spoken, but in allowing your wife to cry, you are encouraging her to express how she is feeling. Additionally, having a conversation may be the last thing your wife wants to do when she’s very upset.
Active listening is refraining from voicing opinion and focusing on the conversation and nothing else.
Step 2: Listen actively to what your wife says.
Active listening isn’t as easy as having a conversation; it means refraining from voicing opinion or judgment. It also includes not interrupting and focusing on the conversation and nothing else. This facilitates communication that allows your wife to express and process her thoughts without concern for what she is saying. Interrupting, interjecting opinions or engaging in other activities while listening may cause defensiveness. And your wife may not be as comfortable being comforted by you.
Step 3: Avoid trying to “fix” what is making your wife upset.
At times, and especially when your wife is upset, there is a natural human inclination to want to make things better. Comfort however, doesn’t always have to entail changing the situation or person who is the source of your wife’s feelings. Being upset, in and of itself, is a way of processing strong emotions, so your wife isn’t necessarily in need of an intervention. Allow your wife to lead the conversation, and avoid making suggestions as to what to do to provide comfort.
Step 4: Comfort physically, rather than emotionally.
Touching another person, via a hug or a gentle arm placed around your wife’s shoulder, can cause biochemical changes in her body. These changes, explains the National Institutes of Health, facilitate the release of the hormone oxytocin which improves mood and decreases stress. So, although you might not feel like physical comfort is helpful, it’s actually therapeutic and at times, easier than having an in-depth conversation.
My Crying Mama Heart
One of the downsides of having hyper-sensitivity and easily soaking in the emotions of others, is consoling my children when they are feeling stressed or troubled. My 16-year-old daughter came into the living room one evening and was on the verge of tears. My first thought was a defensive reaction to avoid asking her what was wrong so I wouldn’t have to also feel her pain. But thankfully my mother’s instinct was stronger than that selfish fear. I invited her to come sit next to me on the couch as I put my arm around her. I didn’t even have to ask her what was wrong before she started right into what was troubling her. Almost immediately, her tears began to flow. Not surprisingly it involved a boy that she was dating. She was feeling some conflicting emotions and had felt hurt by some of his words and actions.
I just listened as she continued to sob and emotionally ramble intermittently. I frequently handed her a new clean tissue until the tears had exhausted themselves. Once she had ‘vommited’ out her feelings she was able to smile. With red puffy eyes she whispered as she hugged me, “thanks Mom”.
I wish I could say that is how all of our conversations end. I was grateful I didn’t let my fear keep me from having a bonding moment with her. And that I was smart enough not to offer any advice but to simply listen and let her verbalize her inner thoughts.
She’s my fourth teenager with two more to go. I’m getting it…slowly. Hopefully by the last one I’ll be a pro! 🙂
Crying Softens Me and I Feel Closer to God
I’ve learned breakdowns are opportunities for growth. For me, crying represents a ‘giving in’ and ‘admission’ that I can’t do this alone. It’s an acknowledgement that something isn’t or hasn’t gone the way I had hoped. Crying seems to soften me to a humble and teachable state that my maker can best speak to me in. I become willing to receive and act on inspiration. I’m better at expressing love or emotion to someone else. The intensity of my tears are typically an indication of the degree I loved what I lost or my disappointment that things didn’t turn out as I had hoped.
When I allow these feelings to bring me more in tune with my higher power I feel more peace. And feeling greater peace in my heart and soul travels through my vagus nerve throughout my nervous system and supports my gentle tummy.
When I allow these feelings to bring me more in tune with my higher power I feel more peace.
My Conclusion: Don’t Hold Back!
Next time you feel like you a need a good cry don’t hold back! Let the tears flow. And if you’re afraid you’ll ugly cry it’s okay to find a secluded place. Science proves holding back the tears is bad for our health and releasing the tears is beneficial. After a good cry, the situation causing the tears may not change but your heart and soul will feel better. And that sense of peace will travel throughout your body thanks to the vagus nerve.
What are some of your favorite places to cry? And how have you been able to best show support for others who need a good cry?
Please comment below. And please share this post with anyone else you think may need encouragement or permission to cry.